Anticipating Jesus

Wesley Chapel Episcopal Church
Wesley Chapel, FL
Preacher: The Rev. Adrienne R. Hymes
The Third Sunday after the Epiphany/Year C: January 27, 2019
Gospel: Luke 4:14-21

Posted by Wesley Chapel Episcopal Church on Sunday, January 27, 2019

In 1978 Heinz Ketchup’s classic commercial permeated the television advertising. The jingle was, “Anticipation. Anticipation is making me wait.” At the end of the commercial, the voiceover artist’s line was, “Thick, rich Heinz Ketchup—the taste that’s worth the wait.” There were several commercials but the visuals always included people waiting and waiting and they watched and smelled the ketchup coming from the bottle onto their soon-to-be eaten burger.

It’s almost painful to watch the people so close to that which they most desire in the moment and yet so far away. In the moment, the experience of waiting caused some form of suffering. The viewer of the commercial shares in that suffering by wondering whether or not the taste of that ketchup is worth the painful wait.

According to one definition, anticipation is not passively waiting for something to happen. It’s a prior action that takes into account a later action. It’s the act of looking forward with something particular in mind.1 With this basic understanding, I am drawn to the act of anticipation as a framework for exploring our Gospel passage today:

  • The anticipation of the Jewish nation that undergirds their waiting for God’s promised deliverer as prophesied by God’s prophets;
  • The anticipation of “what now” when the promised deliverer, the Messiah, is made manifest in the person of Jesus; and
  • The anticipation of God’s fully-realized kingdom come.

We enter into the passage with some “knowns,” provided by the author of Luke. We know that Jesus’ public ministry was already in motion and had been well-received throughout Galilee.

He was faithful to Jewish practices as he customarily went to the synagogue on the Sabbath. When Jesus arrived in Nazareth, he was a guest in his hometown. It was customary to invite the guest in the synagogue to read from the scroll of the Prophet.

A detail that we must not gloss over is that when Jesus was given the scroll, he was not directed to begin reading at any particular place. The scripture says that he unrolled the scroll and he found the place where the prophetic words about him were written (v. 17). He began, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor,” and he concluded with, “to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” The prophetic words of Isaiah would have been very familiar to the hearers. But, there’s something different about Jesus and his reading of this scripture that causes all eyes to be fixed on him. Eyes frozen on Jesus after his reading is the only description of the reaction from those gathered.

Another custom in the synagogue that helps to illuminate this passage is the expectation that one stood to read scripture and sat down to teach.2 Notice that after reading the prophetic words of Isaiah, Jesus sat down. It was time for him to teach. And Jesus’ teaching was delivered in one sentence, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (v.21).

Remember, we are in the season of Epiphany. The lectionary lessons are focused on the divinity
of Jesus, and Luke’s purpose in this passage is to focus the camera lens on the moment when those
who were anticipating the promised Messiah were told, “Your wait is over.”

In his statement Jesus invited God’s people into a reality, which they had been anticipating for
generations, and which was already in motion. Anticipate no more; your wait is over. You’re in
the midst of God’s inbreaking into human history as it is happening—Today.

Just as the inbreaking of God’s kingdom for the salvation of the world happened in the incarnation;
just as the inbreaking of God’s kingdom happened through Jesus’ life and ministry; Just as the
inbreaking of God’s kingdom happened through Christ’s death on the cross and his glorious
Resurrection; Just as the inbreaking of God’s kingdom happened through the commissioning of
Jesus’ disciples to proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the world; God’s inbreaking into Human
history continues Today in and through the disciples for whom it is our custom to worship on the
day of the Lord and to model our lives on the life of Jesus.

Today, the real presence of Jesus is with us when we actively respond to human need by loving
service and seek to transform unjust structures of society that disproportionately affect the
marginalized. His real presence is with us through the sacraments in the breaking of the bread.
With the advantage of looking back from the other side of the cross, we are assured of the hope we
bear in Christ. We have also the responsibility to boldly proclaim to the poor in spirit who have
been broken and oppressed by the world in which they live that the anointed One who brings good
news to the poor, proclaims release to the captives, restores the sight of the blind and liberates the
oppressed—God in human history—is active Today.

In the meantime, in this in-between time, followers of Jesus, live with the hopeful anticipation of
Christ’s return in glory; have tasted and seen that the Lord is good (Psa 34:8); and are assured, by
faith, that He is worth the wait.